An increase in labour costs by up to 15% is affecting the confidence of Britain’s fresh produce industry and risks leaving growers in an unsustainable position, according to a new report.
The report by Andersons and jointly funded by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), British Apples and Pears, British Summer Fruits and British Growers Association, shows that these increases are in addition to a 34% rise in labour costs over the past five years.
NFU horticulture board chair, Ali Capper, said: “These startling figures demonstrate the challenges growers have faced during the Covid-19 crisis. On top of significant seasonal labour recruitment challenges, growers are seeing productivity levels decline, costs rise and returns from the market fall.
“As an industry, from the farmgate to the retailer, we should be working together to share the risks and take the opportunities to grow more fresh produce at home, not less. This sector is very ambitious to expand – growers need certainty, confidence and fair returns to make that investment.”
“It will not be long before this becomes unviable for many farm businesses and they will have to significantly reduce or halt investment in their business. This would be an unforgivable situation for a sector that has been a real success story of British agriculture. Home-grown fruit and vegetables has never been more important to the British public; providing an ample supply of healthy, nutritious food at a time when we know we should be eating more of it.”
As confidence in the supply chain among fruit and vegetable growers takes a hit, the NFU says it will have knock-on impacts on future planting decisions and their ability to invest in the future of their businesses. There are also concerns that this will leave the UK market at a competitive disadvantage to other countries.
The NFU is also urging everyone in the supply chain, including retailers and buyers, to work with their supplier base to discuss these issues and how the supply chain can deliver fair returns to growers.
Ali Capper added: “As an industry, from the farmgate to the retailer, we should be working together to share the risks and take the opportunities to grow more fresh produce at home, not less. This sector is very ambitious to expand – growers need certainty, confidence and fair returns to make that investment.
“This report also provides yet another piece of crucial evidence that we can present in our engagement with Government about how fruit, veg and flower growers will be supported through these challenging times.”